By Jenna DeAngelis

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Italian-American Heritage Month is celebrated in October to honor the contributions of Italian immigrants and their families to our country.

Many of the neighborhoods they settled in are still very much holding onto the culture.

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Like a true Italian, Carmine Gangone graciously welcomed CBS2 into his family’s “second home” — Carmine and Son’s.

“My dad started it in 1979, so I was here as a little boy, just running around, helping,” Gangone told CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis.

His father came to the United States in 1968 among the many Italian immigrants who set roots in Brooklyn.

“Nothing was given to them. They fought for this country,” Gangone said. “I mean, I’m very proud of my heritage.”

Heritage is at the heart of the Graham Avenue restaurant and the Williamsburg neighborhood where Gangone grew up.

“The neighborhood has been an Italian enclave for a very long time, since the late 1800s,” said Raymond Guarini, founder of the Italian Enclaves Historical Society.

He started the nonprofit about two years ago with the mission to preserve and promote Italian-American enclaves, documenting neighborhoods around the country in an online catalogue.

“We found so many different places, so many different Italian churches and neighborhoods than we ever even imagined may have existed,” Guarini said. “Being able to distinguish all of those particular areas helps us go back and correlate all the contributions that have been made.”

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So far, the organization has documented about 160 Italian enclaves around the country, of course, Little Italy being one of them.

“If I were to pass and the good lord were to come to me and ask me where would I like to live and grow up, I would say right here,” said Ernie Rossi, owner of the Italian gift shop E.Rossi & Company.

The shop has been in business, and in his family, more than 100 years.

The past pandemic year has been unimaginable from the business taking a hit to then, Rossi losing both a longtime employee and his wife to COVID.

For him and Anthony Fontana of Caffe Napoli, Little Italy is home.

“You got your blood, sweat and tears in these places. You put your life into these places. You don’t want to see it dissolve,” Fontana said.

But just like their ancestors, they’ll never stop working to keep Italian heritage and culture alive.

You can check out the growing list of Italian neighborhoods the Italian Enclaves Historical Society created at italianenclaves.org.

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Meanwhile, a GoFundMe has been set up to help E.Rossi & Company. To donate, click here.

Jenna DeAngelis